It all started when I lost my I.D.
My friend had a great idea; we'd go into a bar that doubled as an art gallery, and pretend to look at art. Who would refuse a civilized art enthusiast? Drinking alcohol without my papers? What do I look like to you, some riff-raff off the street? No siree!
Dressed like Charlie Brown, my gallantry shrank after entering the chic, metallic atmosphere. I charged passed the bar and was relieved to be the only "art enthusiast" in attendance. I told my collaborator to order me a double, and to meet me upstairs where the DJ solemnly stared into her turntables. The esoteric music swelled and sparkled, creating a nostalgic mood that would aid in the utter SOUL-STAB I was about to receive.
This is how I discovered Tacoma artist and soul-stabber, Sean Alexander, whose artwork was on display.
The first piece was a colossal drawing with miles - years - of microscopic detail. This must have taken a long time, I thought. ... Maybe you're not allowed to order two drinks for yourself?
The art and electronic music transformed the room into a warm, swirling eddy where my own heart and subconscious were being summoned without warning. Does one bring such venerable trappings to a night out on the town? One shouldn't.
Let me tell you that I don't know a single thing about art. I went to the Louvre once and was filled with reprehensible boredom after the hundredth oil painting of yet another primordial dinner party. Want to know what I think about the Mona Lisa? Sucks.
But this was in a language I somehow understood. The message of togetherness and ultimate distance pronounced itself quietly, with the most self-effacing candor. In this, the first piece of Alexander's I came across (which accompanies this article), two identical little men make contact by joining a pitchfork to a shovel above the words, "We Belong Together." The word "belong" seemed like an implication; we should be together, but we are not. Indeed, the jet-black twins are separated, communicating only by the length of their tools.
Images of cats, pilgrims, horses, pies, and hearts lace each piece together in a delightful folk motif; but the messages I found within made the sweet aesthetic seem foreboding. The next piece I studied was a much more straightforward message of doom; a bear-trap, one side made up of sinister teeth, the other, tiny people holding hands. This was entitled, "Hope Trap."
My friend tapped me on the shoulder; my drink was melting upstairs. I couldn't shake the feeling of membership to a love-entrusted, cursed society of siblings for the rest of night. I felt I was a hand-holder in a hope trap, and I was proud.
I set up a meeting with the artist Sean Alexander for this article - who also happens to be the co-founder and organizer of the Squeak and Squawk music festival. It felt kind of like asking for an autograph, but lying about who it's for. I'll admit - I was intimidated.
When he called at the crack of dawn to confirm our appointment, my notion of his seriousness was reinforced. The bad reception intermittently created a dead silence that made me laugh nervously, where he was not laughing. He said he was calling from a landline telephone at his country home in "Longbranch." My roommate told me that Longbranch wasn't a real place.
I love that I thought I was meeting up with a humorless recluse from a distant island.
I love being that wrong.
Alexander was all smiles in paint-splattered jeans, holding his reported sixth cup of coffee that day. What I found is he's not only a Tacoma artist on the rise, and a man with a plan, but an invaluable member of our kind - a regular hand-holder.
WEEKLY VOLCANO: When did you start making art?
SEAN ALEXANDER: I've been doing it my whole life ... I made the best art when I was, like, seven. I just didn't know it was art. I was just making ... couch-shiy. Before I started drawing I was writing a lot of poems. Which were just bad, Richard Brautigan rip-offs about beer cans and cars that run out of gas. Then I realized, "Nobody wants to read this," so I started just drawing these big piles of dots ... I liked that more than poetry. Decisions you make in visual art are poetry, but other people have to put the words in.
VOLCANO: What inspires you about Tacoma?
ALEXANDER: I like Tacoma because its identity is still malleable. You can see all the potential for change and be a part of that, if you want. It could be really cool or just become a shit-hole; it's the responsibility of the people who live there to take care of it.
VOLCANO: What are your goals as an artist?
ALEXANDER: I just want to become less of an artist and more of a person. I want to get back to just enjoying shit, like, shooting hoops. That sounds great. Don't you think?
If you feel like getting your soul stabbed, seek out Alexander's art. You can start here at seanalexander.net. Otherwise, you're sure to see his art and effort, like currents rolling over your town.
You can be a part of it, if you want.